EFEShanghai/Beijing

China on Friday reported two new deaths due to Covid-19 and 331 new positive cases, as authorities continue to grapple with outbreaks in Beijing and Shanghai, the country’s two largest cities.

All the deaths were recorded in Shanghai, which for the past month has been the epicenter of the outbreaks in the country and whose 26 million inhabitants have been under strict lockdown.

In Beijing, measures were being taken to curb the latest outbreaks and the restrictions that affected only three districts initially have been extended to the entire capital, which is home to 23 million people.

The city began on Friday a new round of mass PCR tests to screen for possible asymptomatic cases and has ordered remote work for most offices, except for those providing essential services such as supermarkets.

Rumors of a possible general lockdown – which has not yet materialized – were sparked on Thursday on Chinese social media and caused citizens to rush to stores in search of supplies, while authorities have urged Beijingers not to leave home if it is not essential and to avoid unnecessary crowds and meetings.

China, which has applied a strict "zero tolerance" policy towards coronavirus, is going through a wave of outbreaks fueled by the omicron variant that is causing record numbers of infections not seen since the beginning of the pandemic in the first half of 2020.

Health authorities also reported on Friday the detection of 2,201 asymptomatic cases, 2,140 of them local (mostly in Shanghai), although Beijing does not count them as confirmed cases unless they show symptoms. EFE

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